Getting Jonathan Grimes to talk about himself is about as easy as tackling him.
Grimes, William and Mary's junior tailback, comes into this season on just about every preseason All-American team out there after accounting for a single-season record 2,043 all-purpose yards (1,294 rushing, 460 kick return, 289 receiving) last year. So Grimes, also a first-team all-Colonial Athletic Association preseason selection, must take some pride in being such a triple threat, right?
"Not really," Grimes said. "I guess that's just how the chips fall, the way they use me here at the school. I'm just involved with the passing game and special teams. Rushing yards, I feel like that's just bound to happen."
OK, well, the fact that Grimes has two more seasons to move up William and Mary's all-time rushing list, on which he already ranks 10th with 2,223 yards, has to have made some sort of impression.
"I couldn't even tell you anything about (records), really," Grimes said.
Fine, but surely he knows that the versatility that has produced 3,825 all-purpose yards in two seasons ratchets up his value to his team.
Sitting next to Grimes, Tribe junior linebacker Jake Trantin could take it no longer.
"Yes, it does," Trantin answered for his teammate. "He's very versatile. It's one of his biggest attributes. Any time you've got an entire defense honing in on one player, it gives you options, and even when you've got the whole defense honing in on him, they can't stop him."
Grimes, named to the watch list for the Walter Payton award and a second-team All-American selection by The Sporting News, among other preseason honors, may be reluctant to talk about himself, but others have no such compunction.
"He's one of those running backs that, when he's determined to get a first down or get four or five yards, he's going to do whatever it takes to get those yards," Richmond senior defensive lineman Martin Parker said. "I remember our game last year – our goal was to stop him and change William and Mary into a passing team."
Grimes has been a focal point of defenses since a breakout freshman year that saw him rush for a Tribe freshman-record 929 yards and earn CAA offensive rookie of the year honors. But that hasn't changed Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock's playcalling all that much.
"I learned a long time ago, you get your best players, and you get the ball in their hands," Laycock said. "Even if (opponents) know he's going to get the ball, you get the ball in his hands. I'm not going to outcoach that.. … That's why we wanted to get him more involved in the receiving aspect, so we wouldn't have to have him in the backfield all the time. Basically, what I'm trying to do is get him the ball with some daylight."
Villanova coach Andy Talley, for one, is tired of talking about Grimes, who had 178 total yards in the Wildcats' 28-17 regular-season victory last year and another 140 in Villanova's 14-13 win in the national semifinals.
"There's certain players in the league that are like that, that have played a lot since their freshman year, and you're going, 'God, when is that kid going to graduate?' " Talley said. "The biggest thing about (Grimes) is he's tough. He's extremely tough and durable. For a running back, that's a great commodity. He runs with great balance. He gets extra yards, and his cutting ability is very good. He has a lot of things going for him as a running back, and I can only see him getting better."
That may be, but it's difficult to imagine Grimes getting any more loquacious on the subject of himself.
"If you're in the backfield, you're like, 'If the ball comes to me, I'm going to do something with it,' " Grimes said. "If you're going out for a pass – 'If the ball comes to me, I'm going to do something with it.' It's just being ready to do your assignment each time and give 100 percent every play."
How, though, has he gotten better in the last two seasons?
"I feel like I'm just growing as a player, just learning more about the game … just about defenses and everything," Grimes said. "The plays, the whole system, how what I do affects the rest of the players, what everyone else is doing on each play. A lot of stuff – paying attention to detail."
Quotes like that aren't going up on opponents' bulletin boards any time soon, and that's just fine with Grimes' coach.
"He's just such a great kid," Laycock said. "He sets such a great example out there, and other players see that – 'Here's a guy who's made all-conference, made all this, and he's working like he's working. Shoot, what should I be doing?'
" … His best attribute, to me, is his consistency, the fact that we know what we're going to get with him all the time."
Even if there's never any smack talk involved.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun